Friday, July 15, 2005

Spin -- or perjury? Karl Rove claims to have gotten Plame's name from the media itself ( including Robert Novak) so, the Republican argument presumably will be: what's the crime? It's still classified information and he isn't allowed under federal law to disclose it. The Left-Coaster blog has perhaps the most complete debunking of the Republican spin, including why Rove's disclosure is still a crime even if he didn't know that Valerie Plame was a covert operative. David Corn shreds the Republican defense even further in his commentary on save-Rove spin, while Joe Conason makes clear why Rove must go and why he's deserving of criminal prosecution. John Dean (who knows something about illegal White House activity) explains why Rove is legally vulnerable, but not under the covert agent dislcosure law most commentators are discussing:

No Apparent Violation Of The Identities Protection Act
As I pointed out when the Valerie Plame Wilson leak first surfaced, the Intelligence Identities And Protection Act is a complex law. For the law to apply to Rove, a number of requirements must be met.

Rove must have had "authorized access to classified information" under the statute. Plame was an NCO (non-covered officer). White House aides, and even the president, are seldom, if ever, given this information. So it is not likely Rove had "authorized access" to it.

In addition, Rove must have "intentionally" -- not "knowingly" as has been mentioned in the news coverage -- disclosed "any information identifying such a covert agent." Whether or not Rove actually referred to Mrs. Wilson as "Valerie Plame," then, the key would be whether he gave Matt Cooper (or others) information that Joe Wilson's wife was a covert agent. Also, the statute requires that Rove had to know, as a fact, that the United States was taking, or had taken, "affirmative measures to conceal" Valerie Plame's covert status. Rove's lawyer says he had no such knowledge.

In fact, there is no public evidence that Valerie Wilson had the covert status required by the statute. A covert agent, as defined under this law, is "a present or retired officer or employee" of the CIA, whose identity as such "is classified information," and this person must be serving outside of the United States, or have done so in the last five years.

There is no solid information that Rove, or anyone else, violated this law designed to protect covert CIA agents. There is, however, evidence suggesting that other laws were violated. In particular, I have in mind the laws invoked by the Bush Justice Department in the relatively minor leak case that it vigorously prosecuted, though it involved information that was not nearly as sensitive as that which Rove provided Matt Cooper (and possibly others).

The Jonathan Randel Leak Prosecution Precedent

I am referring to the prosecution and conviction of Jonathan Randel. Randel was a Drug Enforcement Agency analyst, a PhD in history, working in the Atlanta office of the DEA. Randel was convinced that British Lord Michael Ashcroft (a major contributor to Britain's Conservative Party, as well as American conservative causes) was being ignored by DEA, and its investigation of money laundering. (Lord Ashcroft is based in South Florida and the off-shore tax haven of Belize.)

Randel leaked the fact that Lord Ashcroft's name was in the DEA files, and this fact soon surfaced in the London news media. Ashcroft sued, and learned the source of the information was Randel. Using his clout, soon Ashcroft had the U.S. Attorney in pursuit of Randel for his leak.

By late February 2002, the Department of Justice indicted Randel for his leaking of Lord Ashcroft's name. It was an eighteen count "kitchen sink" indictment; they threw everything they could think of at Randel. Most relevant for Karl Rove's situation, Court One of Randel's indictment alleged a violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 641. This is a law that prohibits theft (or conversion for one's own use) of government records and information for non-governmental purposes. But its broad language covers leaks, and it has now been used to cover just such actions.

Randel, faced with a life sentence (actually, 500 years) if convicted on all counts, on the advice of his attorney, pleaded guilty to violating Section 641. On January 9, 2003, Randel was sentenced to a year in a federal prison, followed by three years probation. This sentence prompted the U.S. Attorney to boast that the conviction of Randel made a good example of how the Bush Administration would handle leakers.

The Randel Precedent -- If Followed -- Bodes Ill For Rove

So that may still apply to Rove, despite his excuse before the grand jury: Source: Rove Got CIA Agent ID From Media - Yahoo! News

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